Alexey Oleynik has enjoyed a remarkable mixed martial arts career across 22-plus years and 70 professional fights. The 41-year-old Russian remains a factor in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division despite his technical knockout loss to former Dream, Strikeforce and K-1 World Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem in the UFC Fight Night 149 main event on April 20.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Oleynik sheds light on his career, most notably the difficulty in making ends meet.
Sherdog.com: How much does it cost you to prepare for a fight?
Oleynik: My costs are what I spend on myself and the coaching staff, managers and sparring partners. Sometimes, I need work not in a group but individual training, and then I invite professional fighters two to three times a week to work on what I need. I also need to pay these guys for their time and keep them motivated. There’s also sports nutrition, but often I have sponsors for that. In total, it turns out to be quite a large amount of money. I go through the training camp in the United States. As a rule, it’s two or three months, so I always fly there with my family. In the end, it comes out to $8,000 to $10,000 a month. I once had a training camp in Russia. There were only four people on my team, and for 20 days of training, I paid 400,000 rubles ($6,200) for accommodations, so in Russia, it turns out to be even more expensive. At the same time, I train in one of the coolest gyms in the U.S., I have 20-30 guys working with me, and there are always heavyweights with whom I can work out all the techniques on equal terms.
Sherdog.com: Did the fact that you took the fight with Overeem on short notice impact your costs?
Oleynik: It wasn’t more expensive or cheaper. It cost just as much as it usually does. At the time, I was already getting ready to fight with [Walt] Harris. Another important point is that the cost is not affected by the duration of my camps in America. Whether it’s five months or three weeks, I just give a fixed percentage of my purse. It’s easier for me to count by months. If I’ve been preparing for five months, then it’s $50,000.
Sherdog.com: How much does it cost to stay fit in between bouts?
Oleynik: As a rule, your nutrition costs are reduced during those times. You can’t take huge doses of vitamins, amino acids and so on for 12 months a year; the body needs a break. When there are pauses, I try to do my best to treat sprains, teeth and injuries that are already several years old. I also have more time to spend with my children. We try not to sit by the TV; we always try to go somewhere. Therefore, there are no major differences in costs between breaks and training camps.
Sherdog.com: How much did you get paid for your first UFC fight?
Oleynik: We’re trying to follow the rules, and I’m not supposed to tell you the purse amounts. However, I think I can reveal my first purse. I got $10,000 to show and $10,000 to win against Anthony Hamilton. I earned $50,000 for my previous fight in a Legend tournament. I’ve already admitted that I could have gotten a lot more in Russian than I got from the UFC at the time, but I wanted to make a name for myself.
Sherdog.com: How much did you get paid for the Overeem fight?
Oleynik: I can’t reveal the total amount, but I already read on the Internet how much I received. I will say that my purse is a little more than $100,000. A few fights ago, I received $43,000 to show and $43,000 to win, but it’s not the same now. I have a new contract.
Sherdog.com: How do you plan to spend the money?
Oleynik: Preparing for my next fight and on my family. It may seem like UFC fighters earn huge money, but sometimes when I don’t fight for five or six months, I have to borrow money. Those who know what it’s like to live on credit understand the horror of this situation. Your family depends on you, so I never plan where I will spend the money I make. You just have to live and prepare for the next fight. Do you know that I still don’t have my own house? However, I have rent that’s due. I’ve been that way for several years. It’s not funny when you can’t get a decent apartment for your family in a more convenient place to live.
Sherdog.com: How would you describe your emotions now?
Oleynik: I would like to thank everybody again for their support. I learned about the Overeem fight 18 days before the event, so there wasn’t much time to prepare. I arrived in Russia 11 days before the fight. I spent only six days in the gym, and I didn’t have much time to prepare in those six days. You can imagine what you’d do in that time if you knew you were going to fight Overeem. Of course, I didn’t show the fans everything I could. I’ve already analyzed the fight and found my mistakes. Now, it’s time to work on them.